Is it ethical to make fast fashion even faster?

Stumbling upon the latest article by McKinsey from 18th May 2018, I felt alarmed about the topic: “Faster fashion: How to shorten the apparel calendar.” Is this real?

At a time when a high number of fashion companies, from luxury to high street are acknowledging their contribution to this world’s fashion problems through consumption and supply chain, when many are at least trying to evoke the impression of caring about the world, when some are applying CSR measures and opening dialogues about how we can consume and produce more responsibly, there is still a need to make things faster and more profitable. But an increase in production would mean the use of more natural resources, increase of labourers in terrible conditions, more pollution, more irreversible damage to the eco-system and more trash (=disposal of old garments to be replaced by new ones). And, if you look at it from a psychological side, the consumers remain in a pattern of blindly consuming instead of living, exploring and finding another meaning in their lives. They will be catering to feelings of insecurity, to be numbed by excessive consumption.

Everything Is Fine, Keep Shopping

As Adbusters wrote: “Corporations aren’t necessarily evil, though plenty are diabolically evil, but they can’t help themselves. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do for the benefit of their shareholders. […] IKEA can’t help but level the forests of Siberia and Malaysia to feed the Chinese mills building their flimsy disposable furniture (IKEA is the third largest consumer of lumber in the world). Apple can’t help it if the cost of extracting the “rare earths” it needs to make millions of new iThings each year is the destruction of the eastern Congo — violence, rape, slavery, forced induction of child soldiers, along with poisoning local waterways. […]

This is how giant corporations are wiping out life on earth in the course of a routine business day. And the bigger the corporations grow, the worse the problems become. (

1000 Years Soil
Image source: Adbusters.


Dumbfounded by the article which was written by Achim Berg, Miriam Heyn, Felix Rölkens and Patrick Simon at McKinsey, I am reposting part of it (and a link to the rest of it) below and would like to hear your thoughts on this.

Is faster fashion for all fashion companies ethical? Can it ever be ethical?


Faster fashion: How to shorten the apparel calendar
By Achim Berg, Miriam Heyn, Felix Rölkens, and Patrick Simon

To get new styles into stores more quickly, fashion companies must improve internal collaboration, tap into consumer insights, and start to digitize the value chain.

When Burberry and Tom Ford began experimenting with the fashion-industry concept known as “see now, buy now” in 2016, their efforts were met with a little skepticism and a lot of excitement. The thinking was that consumers, especially millennials, have become accustomed to instant gratification and are therefore much less willing to wait several months to own the latest runway styles. The so-called “fast fashion” companies—the likes of Forever 21, H&M, Inditex, and Primark—were already producing replicas of fresh-off-the-runway items and selling them in stores in a matter of weeks, and consumers were rewarding their speed to market: revenues at those companies rose 8.2 percent in 2017 in aggregate, whereas overall apparel retail grew only about 3.5 percent in that same period.1 With a see-now-buy-now sales model, luxury fashion companies, too, could capitalize on the media coverage surrounding Fashion Week events in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, and translate the buzz into full-fledged sales campaigns.

But skeptics wondered whether “see now, buy now” could work for higher-end apparel. Indeed, it hasn’t been an unqualified success. A handful of designers, including Tom Ford, have since reversed course, citing the misalignment between the timing of Fashion Week and store-shipping schedules. Still, more than 15 leading fashion companies are continuing to experiment with “see now, buy now.” Is it a feasible model for the long term?

Our answer is yes—so long as fashion companies are willing to embark on a dramatic transformation of their processes and mind-sets. Shortening the fashion cycle isn’t a quick-fix undertaking.


The phases of the fashion cycle

Broadly speaking, the fashion cycle consists of three phases: planning, design, and product development; sell-in; and production and delivery. The length of each phase varies widely by company. A phase can be as short as 12 weeks or as long as 30.

The planning, design, and development phase is typically the longest and has the widest variability among companies (exhibit). Therefore, that’s where the greatest potential for compressing the calendar lies.


The duration of an end-to-end fashion cycle widely varies by company.


The length of the end-to-end fashion cycle depends on a number of factors, including the company’s business model and retailer requirements for the assortment. For example, vertically integrated players (such as H&M and Zara) can make decisions faster and skip the sell-in phase because they operate their own stores. Even within a brand, different product groups might follow different calendars: women’s tops are typically refreshed more frequently than women’s jeans, for instance. Basic items (such as plain white T-shirts) don’t have to follow a seasonal collection rhythm because sales of such items are fairly consistent and easier to predict. Still, some basics retailers—Uniqlo, for one—are constantly finding ways to shorten their fashion cycle.

Continue reading the article here!


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